Victoria Williams, Valley State Prison for Women, Chowchilla, California.
Anonymous , Ionia Maximum Correctional Facility, Ionia, Michigan.
James Bowlin, United States Penitentiary, Marion, Illinois.
Anonymous Backdrop Painted in State Correctional Facility, Otisiville, New York.
Photographer Alyse Emdur offers a fascinating look into the world of prisoner portraiture in her ongoing project Prison Landscapes. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, visitation rooms of penitentiaries have backdrops where friends and family can get pictures taken of/with the inmate to commemorate the time they spent together. Often, these backgrounds are idyllic landscapes that offer the inmate a moment to emotionally escape their sentence. Emdur’s series is two-fold; It features inmates posing in front of these faux scenes, as well as the rooms that the giant paintings inhabit.
There’s a stark and ironic contrast between the prisoner-painted backdrops and the rest of their interiors. “Prison visiting room portraits are constructed to intentionally leave out the reality of prison. The aim of my project is not to be an authority on that which is left out, but to rather make the artifice visible. Although the paintings on the backdrops represent freedom, they are vehicles to control the representation of prisons and prisoners.” Emdur explains to Featureshoot.
To obtain the some of the portraits seen here, Emdur spent years corresponding with inmates. “My role was to document a system that I did not have physical access to. I did this by asking those with access, to send me their own photographs,” she says. The limitation of her available sources adds to the institutional critique of prisons that are inherent within the scope of this project. (Via Featureshoot)
Photographer Antoine Rose captures Miami’s beaches and its coastline in the series Up in the Air Miami. Shot from a bird’s eye view, umbrellas, beach goers, and yachts are miniaturized and abstracted, and look like tiny toys used in a diorama. The candy-colored images offer an unusual glimpse into a day on the water, as we see only a general depiction of the beach yet its captured on a large scale. We aren’t offered many details, but still, there is a lot of energy in these photographs. Rose communicates leisure, and minuscule figures evoke the famous French post-impressionist “bathers” series by Cezanne.
Emmanuel Fremin Gallery in New York City is exhibiting Rose’s works, and they describe how the extreme point of view affects what we’re seeing:
… people sharing common behaviors and exposing themselves like hedonistic herds. The stills of people swimming, surfing or just sitting down on their beach pads suggest a showcase or, given the distance, an Insectarium. One can even see a religious connotation: the bird’s eye view makes people seem insignificant dots in the infinite space of the universe, crushed by the immensity of the water field, recalling the biblical universal flood; seen from the sky, like through god’s eyes, people and nature coexist in harmonic or tense relationships. -Eduard Andrei
Miami isn’t the first or only place that Rose has photographed. Previous series of Up in the Air include the Hamptons, Long Island, and Wollman Skating Rink in New York City. To capture these images, he is situated outside of a helicopter that flies as low as 600 feet.
Brooklyn-based photographer Ji Yeo creates Somewhere on the Path, I See You, a project in which the photographer captures two different types of women: one with extreme self-regulation and distorted notions of beauty that suffer from eating disorders, and the other women are aspiring actresses and models living in Hollywood, California, who are interested in the process of being represented because they carry dreams of fame.
By carefully selecting various body and personality types ,Yeo creates a sample of photos (and people) that further examine larger societal issues regarding ideas of beauty, self-definition, and self-respect.
By forcing viewers to confront images of women who by definition had been judged continuously by themselves, it brought focus to the viewers natural impulse to judge. In doing so it implicates them in the complex relationship we have with making aesthetic judgments.
Kostis Fokas is a rare photographer who possesses the innate ability to both create and capture personifications of the provocative in our human form. Challenging and sexually-charged, the work is visually reminiscent of fashion photography, but pulls inspiration equally from painterly compositions by using the body as a metaphor for sexuality, potency, and humanity. In a conversation with Beautiful/Decay, the London-based, Greek photographer explains, “Through my photos I wish to present a new take on the human body and explore its infinite capabilities. The use of quirky, and sometimes hidden faces communicates exactly that. Unlike photography that seeks to reveal the feelings of the objects portrayed through the use of faces and expressions, I shift my focus on the complete freedom pertained to the image of a human body. Stripped from its clothes, I leave it fully exposed and completely surrendered.”
With faces hidden and bodies often stripped bare, the human form becomes a landscape of tension, fully exploring the paradox of submission. A balding man running a brush over his head becomes a metaphor for self-conscious impotence and existential awareness, while a naked woman hovering over a cactus represents a more immediate (and less philosophical) danger. In Fokas’ work we realize that submission is often related to acceptance, mirrored by the artist stating, “Submissiveness often conveys surrender to something greater and more powerful than us.” This duality becomes both a metaphor for the nature of photographic direction, as well as for life, as the human experience is compressed into simultaneously simple and complicated gestures arranged by the photographer with willing participants, and captured on film.
When asked if the work’s sometimes daring exploration of sexual themes and sexuality is ever misinterpreted, or even offensive, Kostas diplomatically responds, “My images aspire to touch on some of these issues, among others, and definitely raise many questions but it is ultimately left up to each individual viewer to decide and reach his own conclusions.”
Let’s face it. Going to the movies can be an expensive and sometimes obnoxious endeavor. As the popularity in streaming services like Netflix and Hulu grow, it’s so much easier and cheaper to just stay at home. But, when you look at these photographs of grandiose theaters by Franck Bohbot, it makes you wish you paid the $15 to be there. In his series simply titled Cinema, he captures the old elegance and spectacular detailing of these places, all of them empty so you can see all of their idiosyncrasies.
Not surprisingly, all of the photographs are theaters in California, in Hollywood and beyond. Some of the decor of these places is totally over the top, like the Orinda Theater, where faux Egyptian hieroglyphics line the walls and guests sit in red velvet seats. Or the Brava Theater in San Francisco, which has an absinthe green ceiling. The Crest in Los Angeles lines its walls with a city landscape and its ceiling dotted with stars, making its patrons believe they are viewing a film outside.
Bohbot’s photography frames these places so they really shine. He controls the lighting and exposure, making these venues appear glitzy and impressive, probably more so than they actually are. But isn’t that movies are trying to do, and by extension the theaters, too? They want you to escape your everyday life for a few hours and believe that you are somewhere else. (Via Flavorwire)
In a surreal and slightly disturbing series titled Running Gag by the Hamburg-based studio POP. Postproduction, they imagine what it would be like if shoes teeth to accompany their tongues. POP specializes in photo-retouching, and manipulated the images has the loafers, boat shoes, and Converse sneakers laughing and grinning. Some have a gap tooth, others a gold grill, while some have hardly any teeth at all.
There is some correspondence with the teeth and the shoe. For instance, the pink canvas shoe with decorative laces has a mouth full of braces, so we’d imagine they are a teenage girl. The gold-studded loafer is an “alternative style” to the preppy shoe, so its gold lip ring feels appropriate.
Despite being slickly-produced and brightly-colored series, the Running Gag is subtle, and it’s only after more than a seconds glance that you realize there are teeth in these shoes. It’s POP’s Photoshopping skills that add to the believability of these characters, and they look liked they’d be right in place in a horror film. (Via Design Taxi)
Ludovic Florent‘s new photoseries Poussières d’étoiles (which translating as Stardust) features the natural beauty of the human body in motion, capturing dancer’s poses in moments of ecstasy, distress and grace. Each photograph is highlighted by the staging, a chalk and sand floor which enhances each movement, with dust clouds mirroring the appendage’s motions to create a dramatic physical presence of their own. Florent says, “In our changing society, my photographic work is guided by a humanistic look, willingness to foreground the natural beauty of the body, free to express his grace and personality.”
The Metz, France-based Florent created Poussières d’étoiles for Gallery HEGOA, and in anticipation for the European Festival of Nude Photography in Arles, France in May, 2014. The photographer further explains his work, “‘Behind every carnal envelope hides a soul that is both sensitive and flamboyant as I try to capture in each of my photographs.’ We certainly enjoy his work guided by a humanistic look, finding expression in a series that is both, sensitive and vivid.” (via ignant)
In the series No Seconds, photographer Henry Hargreaves recreates and records the last meals of Death Row inmates. He captures not only what they ate, but accompanies the photos with what was on the menu and the crimes they committed. Hargreaves is no stranger to the Beautiful/Decay blog, where he was last seen collaborating with food stylist Caitlin Levin. With this particular project, it’s all him, fueled by his towards incredulousness of the US Death Penalty as inspiration. “In New Zealand (where I’m from), and in fact nearly any where else in the developed world, the Death Penalty is just not even in the conversation.” Hargeaves states. “It is a remnant of an earlier era. This little bit of civility, ‘hey we are going to kill you but what would you like to eat?’ just jumped off the page.”
These last meals are recreated beautifully, and the photographer depicts each with its own style. Some, like the fried chicken dinner of John Wayne Gacey appears greasy and gluttonous. Others, like Victor Feguer’s single olive is a poignantly positioned on a gold-trimmed plate.
Food is a common thread amongst diverse groups of people, and the eating habits and choices made can tell you a lot about a person. In researching the project, Hargreaves tells Vice, “The thing that kind of struck me with these last meals was how many of them were these big, deep fried meals, which we like to call comfort food. Here were these people in their last moments and all they really want was a little bit of comfort.” This is one of the last messages someone on Death Row could send, and their choices make you contemplate the message they might be trying to send. What was Timothy McVeigh trying to say when he ordered two pints of ice cream? We’ll never know. (Via Huffington Post and Vice)